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To do or not to do; that is the question.

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Backwoods Savage, Mar 15, 2009.

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  1. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    To do what? To cover the wood pile!

    I do not mean to rattle anyone's chain with this thread but only give reasons for covering or not covering.


    First, we cut all of our wood in the winter. We have cut a tree or two in the summer but this is not best. We do our splitting in the spring and then stack it. We try to get this done before May if possible.

    After we stack the wood, we then just forget about it until late fall or early winter. It is then we cover our wood piles.

    Why do we leave our wood piles uncovered that first summer and fall? For evaporation. Look at a water pot on the stove. Water evaporates....and the moisture goes up. Would it not do the same in a wood pile? However, if that wood pile is covered... Also, if the wood is covered, it does not get any benefit from any sunshine.



    As for rain, it does not hurt at all. Wood is not a sponge so rain will just run right off. After an all day rain, the next day the wood pile is usually dry before the day is done.

    So some say, what about the wood out in the woods that rots because it sits in the rain all the time. However, have you ever noticed if wood sits on the ground, then it rots fast. But, if you have a leaner, that is, most or all of the tree is kept up off the ground, then it takes a long time to rot. You can even go out right after a rain or two days after a rain, cut that log and you will find that the rain did not penetrate the log....as long as the log wasn't already punky.

    It's the same with our wood pile. Up off the ground it is not going to rot (for a long time) and is not going to soak up rain.


    Naturally there is an exception to every rule. The Pacific NW for example where those folks don't seem able to turn the rain off much. There, I would probably cover the wood after stacking, but I would experiment too. That is, I would stack a long row of wood. I'd cover only half of it and then see what if any difference there would be in the wood.

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  2. Jeff S

    Jeff S Feeling the Heat

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    Since this was my first year burning wood and I didn't start cutting wood till last fall most of my wood came from leaner's or dead standing trees that I know were dead for at least 5 years.What I found was approximately the upper 2/3 of these trees were dry enough for immediate burning while the lower portion was usually very moist so I stacked these for next years wood.I have been busy cutting all winter and believe I have the next 2 years wood supply cut,split and stacked.

    Dennis thanks for sharing your many years of experience,like you I too hope to have several years of wood on hand so I will never again be rushed like I was this season.
  3. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Thanks Jeff. Although I've been burning for many moons, I'm still not against learning more and I'm certainly not always right either!
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    There are some differences between the cook stove and your wood pile. The stove is heating from underneath, the woodpile is heated only on the surface by the sun. You see moisture rising from the pot because of convection. I think direct heating and convection plays a lesser role in wood drying. It does however play a role.

    A lot factors on how the wood is piled or stacked as to how deep the rain soaks in and how quickly it evaporates. On a wood stack that has good cross ventilation, wind will blow through the stack and dry it right quick, but a large loose pile won't get much air near the centre especially close to the ground. A lot depends on how much rain you get and how windy the area is.

    I would not put a cover directly on a large loose pile because the cover would be dome shaped and trap too much air. If you could tent over a pile leaving the ends open for prevailing winds and enough space above for good air flow, I think there would be a net gain. One of those roundtop shelters or metal carports with both ends open would work.

    I would cover just the tops of stacks where the wind can otherwise blow through them. For best drying, I would limit the stacks to no more than three rows deep. The higher off the ground the better as there is a moist blanket of air near the ground. Also keep the grass cut on both sides of the stack for better air flow. If you can expose the ground near the stacks to sun, the earth will heat up the air and aid drying.
  5. wellbuilt home

    wellbuilt home Minister of Fire

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    Good question , It seems to me that in the lower NY climate wood drys fastest with the top covered and when its very cold . large splits take a long time but a 2x6" splits drys in 6 weeks .
    I really don't think it matters what you do in the spring or summer . In the fall if the wood is stacked with some space between it it will dry out .
    I think you could just stack the wood in the wood shed a few weeks after its split and it will dry any way .
    I would throw the wood in piles 8' high and it drys.
    My tree guy has a conveyor belt that stacks wood 25' high , it drys . He covers it when it starts to snow .
    I'm going to build a wood shed this year mostly because i don't want to look at the wood pile any more .
    I'm thinking about leaving a 1" air space on the floor boards and leaving the walls tight with 2 solar vents in the roof to draw air through the piles.
    I want a 12x 16 shed with a 8 ' open area on the side to park a skid steer and splitters .
  6. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    I was just thinking about taking off my tarps sometime this week. They're starting to get ratty and like Savage says the sun and wind are in short supply here in CNY so as far as I'm concerned more time in the sun is better.

    Actually the old timers around here said years ago they never bothered to cover fire wood. Now winters aren't as cold so the constant thawing and snowing makes the snow to heavy to brush off the wood... so tarps are a big help in the winter.
  7. jadm

    jadm New Member

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    BEFORE FINDING THIS FORUM;

    Had a load of green wood delivered in mid-July. Wood guy said cover it but leave 2'-3' open at the bottom.....Don't think I have to tell you regulars here what the end result of that was.... %-P

    AFTER FINDING THIS FORUM;

    I specify dry wood.

    I order my wood in March.

    I stack it on 4x4's (Before stacks were sitting on the ground. :sick: )

    I leave it uncovered until late fall and then only cover the tops.

    I don't have to tell all of you regulars what I get as an end result now.

    Thank-you to all who have shared here. You have all helped turning me into a much more efficient wood burning person. You have given my obsession nice orderly direction.



    ;-)
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Around here we almost always get a few weeks of rain just before it turns cold and so it's essential that you cover your wood in the Fall or else they will be frozen together with an inch of ice. Back when I was tarping over my outdoor woodpiles, the tarps would deteriorate, leak, and freeze down to the wood only to be shredded to bits trying to get them off.

    We also get some wild temperature swings this time of year resulting in thawing and refreezing. Any dry powdery snow will turn to ice just when you really need the wood.

    I think BWS was talking about not covering in the summer only.
  9. DonNH

    DonNH New Member

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    I think that in most climates it doesn't really matter during the summer. The big thing is to get the wood up and stacked so that air can get through it. Late summer/early fall - get something over it to keep the water off.

    I had wood thrown in a couple piles for a couple/three years - low piles in a shaded area including rot-prone species like pin cherry. Last October-ish, since I finally got the wood stove hooked up in my garage, I started to panic about having dry wood.
    I picked up all the wood, much of which was pretty soggy, & stacked it under some old fiberglass roof panels.
    By the time I started into the questionable stacks in late January, everything was quite dry.
    The roofing panels are nice because you can block them up to leave plenty of airflow underneath. Have to slope the pile a bit for good drainage, and weight/tie them well to avoid chasing them in wind storms.

    Don
  10. Lumber-Jack

    Lumber-Jack Minister of Fire

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    I live in the South Okanagan area of BC where the climate here is considered semi-arid. I can commonly cut dead standing wood that is already "seasoned" to less than 20% moisture content. In fact yesterday I went out and cut a little more wood (we ran out and recent temps have been colder than normal for this time), anyway I took my moisture meter with me and did a lot of sampling of various trees, both standing and lying down.
    The one main tree I cut down was a standing fir about 20" in diameter at the base. At the point where I made the falling cut (about 1 ft off the ground) the moisture level was about 30%. At the next buck cut 16" higher the moisture level was about 20%. All the remaining cuts above this were less than 10% moisture levels, which confirms what I have always felt, that the standing dead wood around here is very well seasoned. (It burns great) I didn't find that at all surprising, in fact that is the kind of wood that I usually cut when I go on my wood gathering forays.
    What I did find though, that relates to this thread, is what I found when I went around cutting into and taking moisture readings on trees that where already lying down. I only tested trees that were "suspended" off the ground either by there own branches or by lying on top of other trees. I didn't bother checking any of the trees that were lying directly on the ground as most of them were obviously rotten.
    All of the "suspended" trees I checked had moisture levels on the upper portions of the round of 25% or more, and many spiked over 30%. These were mostly all trees that had been down for 2 years or more and suspended above the ground, so the moisture in them had to had been from rain and snow and many of them had signs of dry rot. The bottom portions of the round had lower moisture levels than the top portions.
    The was no snow on the trees as we have had some warm weather lately, but I'm sure that most of the winter there was snow sitting on top of them and it had only recently melted. I'm also sure that if I came back during the summer and checked these same trees that the wood would be very dry.
    It seems to me exposed wood (especially soft wood) lying on it's side, even if it is up off the ground, is able to soak up quite a lot of moisture and hold it for long enough for the bacteria responsible for rotting the wood to do it's dirty work before the wood dries up again.
    This is why I generally only cut standing dead trees rather than anything lying down, even if they are not lying directly on the ground.
    As for covering stacked wood, I think what Dennis says about leaving it uncovered during the summer and covering it in the Fall would work well around here, but you sure have to cover it before the cool weather comes or it's gona rot.
  11. WOODBUTCHER

    WOODBUTCHER Minister of Fire

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    I guess it boils down to "being ahead of the game" I guess no right or wrong answer applies as long as your fires are easy to start and they burn hot.

    Some day the Woodbutcher will have a PT rack...... with a roof .....no tarps ......no BS.......

    WB
  12. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    If it's green in winter or spring, uncovered seems fine. I get my wood under a roof, either the shed or the porch, before the fall rains. Wood that's more than 6-9 months old, though, I'd cover. I get mold on green wood here regardless of covering or not. I get rot with seasoned wood left in the rain.
  13. Apprentice_GM

    Apprentice_GM Member

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    My personal experience has been to leave the piles uncovered, although if the forecast is rain for a week, I often throw a tarp over them, then remove. We don't get snow in my part of Oz so just leave them uncovered all the time.

    My recent post of a woodburners handbook written by an expert here might help - he has tested and recommends uncovered to prevent moisture creating humidity traps.
  14. stockdoct

    stockdoct New Member

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    Here's a way to look at the issue from a different angle ..... does wood's internal moisture content increase when wood is soaked? When I smoke foods in my outdoor smoker, it is advised to soak the wood in water to keep the wood smoking rather than burning; chips of wood need to be soaked for 30 minutes, chunks of wood for a couple hours, and "splits" at least overnight. It's thought, in the smoking crowds, that overnight is enough to get the wood somewhat more saturated with water. If that's true, then protecting wood from getting wet makes sense.

    Here's an experiment for someone who has a wood moisture meter; Measure the moisture content before a drenching rain, then after. Does the internal moisture content raise after being wet for 24 hours? The smokers say yes, backwoodssavage would probably say "not appreciably". Anyone wanna try it?

    Anyway, I just bought a tarp MADE OF BLACK MESH from Menards, meant to cover outside dog-cages to give them shelter from the sun and rain, but still allow air-flow. I'm gonna install it 6" above my wood stacks at an angle to allow rain to slide off it and away from the wood, but still allow the vertical airflow the "non-coverers" would want. Makes sense to me.
  15. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    It is just a shade cloth and won't stop rain. Save it for the dogs.
  16. crazy_dan

    crazy_dan New Member

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    I do not cover because I am too damn LAZY to cover it, and too Damn cheap to buy tarps.
  17. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Soaking wood in water is much different from letting a wood pile sit in the rain.

    One more thing you do with a wood pile, or should do, is the top 2 rows are laid to that only bark is exposed on the top; not the hearts. And I'm not too sure of that cover you plan to use.

    Leave a wood pile sit in the rain for 24 hours and then leave it sit in the sun and wind and you will have dry wood. No, we do not use a moisture meter as we have no use for them; we burn dry wood only.
  18. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    Even here in NW Oregon it's not raining more often than it's raining. Sure, it's not sunny either, but water evaporates even when it's cloudy. Airflow.
  19. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    I don't bother covering them at all, too much hassle, it usually looks like azz, and it seems like a constant battle to keep them covered. I find wood seems to dry better overall if left uncovered. I'm sure covering the wood while it's raining and then removing the covers afterwards would yield the best results, but I have far too much wood to attempt doing this... and not enough time or ambition since leaving it uncovered sees to work fine for me. The only time I occasionally cover a pile is if I know I'm going to be bringing in a bunch of wood after a snow or rain storm, but that's just to make it easier on me.
  20. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Hey Wet1, I agree that putting a cover on when it rains then removing it would get old very fast! I like using old galvanized roofing works good for covering and is not a mess. As I uncover I just lay the roofing pieces together and then put them on the new piles the following fall.
  21. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    I hear metal roofing works very well, that and thick rubber mats. Unfortunately (at least in this regard), I live in a residential area along the ocean so I don't have a nice lot out in the woods to stick (or hide) my piles. If I started throwing metal roofing over my wood piles, I think that might just push the neighbors over the edge. :cheese:

    Like I mentioned, just leaving them uncovered seems to work very well for me anyway. I typically only go out for wood a couple times a week, I have my stove in a finished basement and I can store a good sized pile close to the stove if I want. Doing this seems to dry the wood very nicely, so moisture is never really a concern for us.
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